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Theater Review: Ghost Stories: Crucible The Musible!

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 16, 2007 9:40PM

cruciblemusible.JPGThe moment Giles Corey Feldman, presiding judge of Crucible the Musible’s mock Salem witch trial, pulled out the washboard and rocked a rendition of Santana’s “Evil Ways” in his cotton ball wig, it was official: this was the goofiest play we’d seen all year. And for a Hallows Eve entertainment meant for ages 10 and up, that’s a good thing. Where the typical haunted house or hayride provides bloodless cheap thrills and little attempt at a story, this original piece of musical theater and gymnastic spectacle presented by Strange Tree Group and Aloft Aerial Dance serves up laughs and breathtaking aerial achievements.

Give credit to playwright Emily Schwartz for recognizing we didn’t need another fiery stage interpretation of the Salem trials, particularly when Steppenwolf is producing an excellent version. So this curious hybrid of classic rock, campfire, costume party, broad musical comedy, and gymnastics exhibition has something for everyone. The aerial work is clearly the best and most developed component, with two Aloft company members choreographing concussion-defying routines on hanging silks, Chinese webs, and the triple trapeze.

Watching the "witches" spin and flip to live band accompaniment was mesmerizing enough to distract us from the admittedly thin plot. The hapless Ron Schlachter (a surname played for laughs at virtually every opportunity) awkwardly courts town beauty Gabigale Grayson, a pairing that isn’t meant to be until, suddenly, it is. He’s the sole dissenter in the bloodthirsty mob, throwing the suspected witches before the tribunal. There are ample punchlines involving the elders condemning and lusting after nubile women dancing in the moonlight, leading to a rather convenient resolution. But each time the show heads towards a chasm of implausibility, a musical number and physical spectacle delights, and all is forgiven.

Ghost Stories: Crucible The Musible!, presented by The Strange Tree Group and Aloft Aerial Dance, plays at the Aloft Loft, 937 N. California Ave., 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday and October 25-31. More information at

Photo by Josh Hawkins.